Saber-Rattling or “Not every barking dog bites!”

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)

Recently I was watching a TV pastor teaching about spiritual warfare. The preaching was powerful and the word he brought was sound. As he preached the congregation began to really get into the spirit of things. They began to cheer, wave their arms and shout “Amen!” It was the kind of church service that I enjoy most.

But as I watched the congregation come to a fever pitch, a sobering thought suddenly occurred to me. “Not every barking dog bites!” And then I thought, “How many of those in that congregation, who were the loudest, actually have no bite in their bark? How many of them were just making noise?” Then I thought, “How many of us who shout at the Devil and shout the name of Jesus at demonic forces is really doing little more than… saber-rattling?” Saber-rattling means to offer a show of force. It means to make threats at an enemy in hope of intimidating him into submission.

Have you ever heard someone say, “You know the Bible says, ‘Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.’ So, just resist him! Command him to leave you and your family alone. Plead the blood and the name of Jesus against him and he will flee!” Yes, there’s a lot of truth in that statement. However, that is not how you resist the Devil. There is something you must do first before you can even think about rebuking demonic powers.

Many who quote that verse, in the context of resisting the devil, don’t quote the whole verse. They leave out the first part. That’s amazing considering the first part of James 4:7 that tells us how to resist the devil. “Submit yourselves, then, to God. [and in so doing you will] Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” The first part of this verse must be in place before you can do the second part.

May I ask you a personal question? Is the Enemy running all over you and you don’t know why? Have you tried to claim authority in the name of Jesus over him, but he still runs over you? If so, may I suggest the strong possibility that you are not submitted to God, that you may be holding out on him. Could it be that God has spoken to you about a specific area of your life and you’ve chosen to ignore his correction? Could there be something you haven’t submitted to God?

If this is the case chances are you’re not doing the first part of the verse and are, therefore, failing in the second part. Your bark has no bite in it! When we leave out the first part of James 4:7 all our rebuking and shouting at the devil means nothing. Your so-called “spiritual warfare” is just so much noise and amounts to little more than saber-rattling. excalibursaber_largeIt’s an empty show of force that the devil ignores as he continues to runs havoc in your life? Your bark has no bite!

Now, isn’t what I’m sharing with you worth your considering? Do you have an attitude of submission to God? Are you doing the first part of the verse or are you just saber-rattling? What areas in your life are not submitting to God? Why not ask him to show you those holdouts that you have in your life? Then when He does repent and submit them to God.

If you’ll do this the enemy will begin to flee from you in panic. He’ll realize that you mean business and he will finally start to feel the bite in your bark! Your lifestyle of complete submission will show the Enemy that you are deadly serious! He’ll see that this is not just saber-rattling. Then the enemy will start running from you in complete terror. You see, Satan cannot defeat a Spirit-filled, Spirit-led and… Spirit-submitted child of The Most High God!

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (1 Peter 5:6-10)

Just a side note on this passage: the Greek word translated “restore” it a word meaning to mend fishing nets.  Jesus said “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” (Matthew 4:19) I don’t know about you but sometimes I need my nets mended.

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)

It seems to me that the Devil gets too much credit and that many professing Christians are rebuking demons when we should be rebuking our sinful nature. As Paul said, And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.” (Romans 7:18-25) Boy, do I relate!

This is what I meant when I said, “Could it be that God has spoken to you about a specific area of your life and you’ve chosen to ignore his correction?” Could there be something you haven’t submitted to God? If this is the case, chances are you’re not doing the first part of the verse, submitting to God, and therefore, are failing in the second part, resisting the Devil.” Indeed, we need to practice some good old-fashioned self-control before we try to do some demon-control.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

Many of us have been guilty for over-spiritualizing things. Many see a demon behind every bush. However, we must not make the big mistake of de-spiritualizing things. We must be aware of the Enemy’s misdirection in our lives. I was guilty of this for years and it got me in a whole heap of trouble.

Many Christians have made the mistake of thinking that because Satan is defeated he is no longer a threat. If this were true, why would the Holy Spirit, through Peter, deem it necessary to offer such a strong warning? Furthermore, why would the Scripture admonish us to put on armor and take up weapons if we weren’t at war?

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Ephesians 6:10-13)

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)

What strongholds? The ones that are within us—the sinful habits, our thought-life and etc that have taking root in our lives over the years.

It’s true that Satan’s major weapon is deception, but it’s also true that he attacks in other ways as well. He can torment us physically and mentally. In addition, he can wage a war of persecution against us.

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. (2 Corinthians 12:7)

“Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” — Jesus (Revelations 2:10)

The “crown of life’ that’s mentioned here is not talking about salvation. That was bought at Calvary is received freely by faith. A king wares a crown of authority. Paul said, “For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!” (Romans 5:17)

You probably already know this. This is just a reminder so that we will heed the words of Peter in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be self-controlled and alert.” Now, notice Peter’s wording, “self-controlled and alert.” It seems that he is echoing the words in James 4:7, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. [self-control] Resist the devil [be alert], and he will flee from you.”

When I was in Army basic training every morning we would jog in formation. Often we would chant this phrase. “Alert, alive! Alert, alive!” The Vietnam War was in full swing and many of our young men and women were coming back in body bags every month. This was the ways that our Drill Instructors implanted the importance of being alert in order to stay alive. Peter said “Be self-controlled and alert.” because we have an enemy who wants nothing less that I complete destruction. This brings us right back to where we started—submission.

Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul [mind]. (1 Peter 2:11)

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.  Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. (Romans 6:11-13)

Submission to God is the greatest weapon we have for resisting the wilds of the Enemy. Those who keep blaming the Devil for their sin need a wake-up call. One cannot rebuke the Devil without first rebuking their sinful nature. To do otherwise results in nothing more than saber-rattling and will lead you down a path of defeat and misery.

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See a video version of this message at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=05HRMHrUhJ4

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